A quaint barbershop in Ypsilanti, Michigan is striving to improve children’s reading levels, one book (and haircut) at a time.
According to barber Ryan Griffin, The Fuller Cut offers a $2 discount on haircuts to children who read aloud while having their hair cut, trimmed, and buzzed, in an effort to foster an early love of reading. And word of the amazing impact the program’s been having so far is starting to spread.
We all learn by example — whether we’re young kids or full-grown adults. And Griffin, who started the reading program back in 2008, knows that all too well. Having children see one another reading books aloud (and being encouraged by someone other than Mom or Dad) is an easy way to get kids hooked on reading early. And that can only lead to good things.
“When little kids that don’t really know how to read or what’s going on see an older kid in the chair with a book and then grab a book too, that’s what’s important,” Griffin told The Huffington Post. “Because when a kid thinks it’s cool to read, that’s a gift.”
And the program doesn’t just get kids to read aloud and work on their language skills — the stories they’re given to read have an added bonus: Every one of the books in the barbershop’s library focuses on a different inspiring African-American throughout history.
“All our books have positive images of African-Americans — whether it’s astronauts, athletes, or writers,” Griffin told The Huffington Post.
At a time when racial tensions have reached fever-pitch, seeing the small, yet impactful way a little barbershop in Michigan is honoring black history in America, is nothing short of amazing.
Griffin, who has worked at the barbershop for 20 years, began the collection by bringing old books from his home into the shop and telling parents about the $2-off deal.
“And that’s just how it started,” said Griffin. “It wasn’t anything grand. I just wanted to be responsible.”
Griffin also shared that his local community has embraced the idea, and he’s welcomed many new patrons to The Fuller Cut, specifically because of the reading program.
The shop currently has 75 to 100 rotating titles to choose from, but kids are also welcome to bring their own books as well, such as one they’re reading for school. If a child does start a book at the barbershop, however, the barbers make sure to mark the spot where the child left off, so they can pick it back up again at their next visit.
But success is not marked by the completion of a book at The Fuller Cut. As Griffin told Babble:
“When a kid is who is afraid to read out loud and does anyway, that kid succeeds. When a sibling picks up a book because they see their brother in the chair reading, that gets a book into their hands. When a kid sounds out a word that’s hard for them, that’s success. Each individual battle is a win. It may be small, but that child has accomplished.”
In their own little way, the barbers do their part to improve the next generation. Referencing a quote from the famed abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglas, Griffin likes to keep this thought in mind: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
So why not start them in a positive direction early on?
As Griffin and his fellow barber, Alex Fuller, share with Babble, the two have done their part at home as well. As a father of three, Griffin says reading has always been a “core part” of his children’s lives.
According to a 2015 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, though, the percentage of American adults who read literature has reached a three-decade low. All books have something to offer — whether it be expanding our imaginations, provoking new ideas, or even just providing an escape for readers — which is why it can be disheartening to see kids ditch reading in favor of watching TV or scrolling through Instagram. But thanks to The Fuller Cut’s incentive, that could all change.
As Griffin told The Huffington Post, “If we can get kids to come back to The Fuller Cut as adults in college and they tell us, ‘Because you guys had us read here, it made me want to be a writer or journalist,’ that’s really the end goal.”
And as the members of The Fuller Cut have proven, doing good can feel good, too.
“I feel good about doing what’s responsible, Griffin told Babble. “It’s for humanity. It’s what we are all supposed to do. I’m/we are all responsible for the kids.”
That right there is setting another example we should all follow. If everyone made decisions based on the good of others, the world could be a much happier place.